Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Rays swap starters, go with Kazmir in Game 5

Scott Kazmir, throwing in the bullpen at Fenway Park before Tuesday’s game, pitched solidly in the ALDS and is eager to redeem himself for a poor outing in Game 2 of the ALCS at the Trop.


Scott Kazmir, throwing in the bullpen at Fenway Park before Tuesday’s game, pitched solidly in the ALDS and is eager to redeem himself for a poor outing in Game 2 of the ALCS at the Trop.

BOSTON — The Rays had several well thought-out reasons — some more stated than others — for changing their rotation and starting Scott Kazmir instead of James Shields in tonight's Game 5 of the ALCS.

But for an organization usually steeped in optimism, it was most interesting that they made the decision for what seemed to be the worst-case scenarios.

By making the change, they avoid having Shields pitch in Boston, where he has been horrible (0-3, 10.13). They'll have Kazmir pitch preceding an off day, allowing them to go early and often to the bullpen with the cushion of not disrupting the next game.

And — as much as the Rays want to wrap up their first World Series berth tonight — they talked a lot about the comfort of having Shields on the mound for Game 6 Saturday at home, where he has been dominant (9-2, 2.59 ERA and two solid postseason starts).

"We're just doing what we think is the right thing to do," manager Joe Maddon said.

What that seems to say, in the simplest form and the best case, is that the Rays have more confidence in Kazmir winning Game 5 tonight than Game 6 Saturday, and that they wanted him to pitch with as much margin for error as possible.

Maddon acknowledged "everybody's trepidation" about Kazmir, admitting that with Kazmir's inconsistency "you just don't know as much" what he'll do. Maddon confirmed that he'll be "less tolerant" of Kazmir's wildness and quicker to make a change, if warranted, tonight.

Departing from his own one-game-at-a-time mantra, he basically said the Rays are hoping for the best and planning for the worst.

"We're not looking to give them any kind of crack," Maddon said. "It's just, again, we believe that Kaz can pitch well. And if it does break down at all — trying to just manage the whole situation. You're looking at not only (tonight's) game and what can happen, then of course what can happen at home. We're just trying to look at the big picture with the whole thing."

He also said that if the series were 2-2, they would have stuck with Shields. "Under those circumstances you have a chance to go back home and you'd be down by one game, and you just feel at this particular juncture Shields has been more consistent," Maddon said.

That all could sound like a lack of confidence in Kazmir, who has been inconsistent much of the season and struggled during two postseason starts. After his Wednesday media session at Fenway Park, in which he said he was "very eager" for the chance to "try to redeem myself" for his shaky Game 2 outing, he claimed he was trying to not take it that way.

"It's a positive, but at the same time you kinda want to maybe address it a little bit differently," he said. "It is what it is. The way everything's going right now, you can't really say anything because I haven't really produced. I just wish it was handled a little bit differently. But it's all good."

Kazmir had said Tuesday it "might be a good idea" to make the change since umpire Derryl Cousins — whom Kazmir criticized heavily after a June start — will be behind the plate for Game 6. But Wednesday, both Maddon and Kazmir insisted that was not a factor in the decision. Other issues that may have been factors: Kazmir will be on regular rest and routine and the Rays are facing Boston's best in Daisuke Matsuzaka.

Shields, who threw a light bullpen session Wednesday and would be working on seven days' rest, wasn't particularly thrilled with the change, either.

"I would have liked to pitch (tonight), personally, but it's a decision they made, and I'm fine with it, perfectly fine with it," he said. "I wouldn't have minded pitching here to kind of redeem what everyone talks about, but that's the way the game goes."

The Sox, however, seemed to like it.

"Not that big a deal," David Ortiz said. "I think right now Shields is pitching better than Kazmir. But he's pitched good here. So you just go from there."

If the Red Sox were to come back from the 3-1 deficit to win the series — they have done it in the ALCS a record three times — the decision to change the rotation will be hugely second-guessed. But Maddon is not concerned. He, executive vice president Andrew Friedman and pitching coach Jim Hickey have been talking about the possibility since before the series and are convinced it's the better plan.

"If you let it go the other way and Shields doesn't pitch well and maybe we lose and then all of a sudden we go back," Maddon said. "It's just our best call."

Marc Topkin can be reached at

Rays swap starters, go with Kazmir in Game 5 10/15/08 [Last modified: Friday, October 17, 2008 7:03pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Video: Rays Souza on that oh-so-bad dive, and reaction from Twins fans


    What was Rays RF Steven Souza Jr. thinking when he made that oh-so-bad dive for a ball in the seventh inning Friday? Well, we'll let him tell you ...

  2. What was Rays RF Steven Souza Jr. thinking on that comically bad dive?


    What could Rays RF Steven Souza Jr. been thinking in the seventh inning Friday when he dove for a ball and came up yards short?

    Actually, he insisted after all the laughing, teasing and standing ovation from the Twins fans was done, it was a matter of self-preservation.

  3. Rays at Twins, 2:10 p.m. Saturday, Minneapolis

    The Heater

    Today: at Twins

    2:10, Target Field, Minneapolis

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun, 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

  4. State baseball: Unbeaten Calvary Christian makes it 29 straight wins, reaches final


    FORT MYERS — Calvary Christian is one game from season-long perfection. And its first state championship.

     Calvary Christian players celebrate their win after the FHSAA class 4A semi-final against American Heritage on Friday May 26, 2017 at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, Fla. Calvary defeated American Heritage 7 to 1. Calvary takes on Pensacola Catholic in the championship tomorrow night, at Hammond Stadium.
  5. USF eliminated by UCF in AAC baseball; Florida, FSU, Miami win


    CLEARWATER — Roughly 16 hours after a ninth-inning collapse against East Carolina in the American Athletic Conference's double-elimination baseball tournament, USF returned to Spectrum Field presumably set for a reboot.

    It simply got booted instead.

    ’NOLES win: Tyler Holton gets a hug from Drew Carlton after his strong eight innings help Florida State beat Louisville.